Guide to the Michael Donald
Creator: Scotty E. Kirkland
Title: Michael Donald Papers
Quantity: .5 cubic feet
Abstract: Contains copies of research, articles, court transcripts and FBI Investigation
files from Kirklands research on the Donald murder.
On March 21, 1981, James Knowles and Henry Francis Hays, local members of the United Klans
of America, lynched Michael Donald. In retribution for the mistrial of a black man accused
of killing a white police officer in Birmingham, Hays and Knowles took Donalds body
and hung it from a tree on Herndon Avenue near his home. The investigation into the murder
stalled for over a year until, after prodding from Thomas Figures, the assistant U.S.
attorney in Mobile, the local division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation launched a
new inquiry. That inquiry resulted in the arrest and conviction of Henry Hays for
Donalds murder in February 1983. Hays was sentenced to the death penalty. Knowles
was also convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment. In 1987, Morris Dees, founding
partner of the Southern Poverty Law Center, sued the United Klans of America on behalf of
Michael Donalds mother. Beulah Mae Donald v. United Klans of America resulted
in a $7 million verdict for the Donald family and bankrupted the UKA and its founder,
Robert Shelton. Henry Hays was executed in June 1997, becoming the first white man in
Alabama to be put to death for the murder of a black man in over sixty years. In 2006,
Herndon Avenue was renamed for Michael Donald.
Scope and Content
The papers of Michael Donald contain selected Hays and Knowles court proceedings, the bulk
of which is related to Hays. Also included are FBI investigation files, coroners
report, and several articles relating to the cases and the Ku Klux Klan.
The collection has been divided into four series: 1) Court proceedings (3 files); 2) FBI
files and correspondence (1 file); 3) Ku Klux Klan (2 files); 4) Articles and Research
Material (7 files).
This collection is open to researchers.
Michael Donald Papers, The Doy Leale McCall Rare Book and Manuscript Library, University
of South Alabama, Mobile, Alabama
Series 1: Court Proceedings
This series contains five court rulings from State v Hays from 1985-1992, as well
as selections form the civil suit, Beulah Mae Donald v. United Klans of America.
The series also contains the official coroners report and his testimony in the Hays
Series 2: FBI Files
Contains correspondence and material related to the acquisition of the Michael Donald
murder investigation files from the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 2006. The FBI files
comprise approximately 1500 pages and have been burned to a CD-ROM.
Series 3: Ku Klux Klan
Contains a copy of the Klan charter for the Mobile chapter, copied from the Southern
Poverty Law Center, and a state investigation file of the UKA in Alabama commissioned by
Attorney General Richmond Flowers in December 1965.
Series 4: Articles and Research
This series contains articles from Mobile Register reporter Michael Wilson on the
Donald murder and Hays execution, as well as a collection from the Michigan State
University Librarys Radicalism Collection. There are several articles concerning the
civil suit and two stories on the renaming of Herndon Avenue in 2006 form the Mobile
Press Register. The final file contains a copy of an Auburn University masters
thesis on the KKK in Alabama, 1969-1981, by Raymond Morton.
1. Court Proceedings,
Rulings, State v. Hays, 1985-1992.
2-3. Court Proceedings, Transcript Selections, Beulah Mae Donald v. UKA, 1987.
4. Coroners Report, 1981.
5. FBI Correspondence
and Related Materials.
6. Ku Klux Klan, Charter
7. Ku Klux Klan, Alabama Investigation File, 1965.
8-15. Newspaper Clippings, 1981-2000 and n.d.
16. Articles, Guardian, 1981-1984.
17. Articles, Lexis Nexis, 1983-2002.
18. Articles, Michigan State University, 1981-1987.
19. Articles, Michael Wilson, Mobile Press Register, 1997.
20. Articles, Mobile Press Register, 2006.
21. Articles, Robert Shelton Interview
22. Articles, "Slaying the Dragon"
23. Morton Thesis, 2004.